Saturday, February 17, 2007

Local Government applaud WA Prostitution laws

February 17, 2007: The Local Government Association says the Western Australian Government has struck the right balance with its proposed new prostitution laws. The state government plans to decriminalise prostitution as part of a bid to regulate the industry. WA Attorney-General Jim McGinty says he will introduce legislation into state parliament this year which would allow brothels to operate legally...
Friday, February 16, 2007: The Local Government Association says the Western Australian Government has struck the right balance with its proposed new prostitution laws. Attorney-General Jim McGinty is preparing legislation to decriminalise and regulate the industry, saying the current laws are a mess.

The new arrangements would introduce regular health and safety checks for sex workers. The association's Bill Mitchell says the new laws will clarify the role of local government in controlling the location of brothels, without placing too much onus on brothel operators.

"It's not that proscriptive as in other states as to force the industry underground," he said. "Our recent experience with eastern states legislation is that very few brothels actually applied for licensing, it was all too hard and it forced the industry underground and that's exactly what we don't want."

Brothels in Western Australia will be able to operate legally under proposed new laws to be introduced into State Parliament this year. Attorney General and Health Minister Jim McGinty said the State Government planned to decriminalise and regulate the world’s oldest profession in order to protect the health and safety of sex workers and provide clarity for police.

“It is time we sorted out the prostitution laws in WA to deal properly with the sex industry, which has been a reality of life for a long, long time,” Mr McGinty said. The Attorney General said the State Government had begun drafting legislation based on the recommendations of the Prostitution Law Reform Working Group, which had studied prostitution legislation in other Australian States and New Zealand.

The working group recommended adopting a minimalist, decriminalised model, where approved operators and managers of brothels and escort agencies would be regulated under a certification system run by the Department of Racing, Gaming and Liquor.

All operators and managers would need to be of good character to be certified and not have any serious convictions or charges pending related to sexual crimes, organised crime, drugs or violence.

Operator/manager certificates would be required for premises with two or more sex workers and certification would need to be renewed annually. Penalties would apply for brothels found operating without being certified. Brothels would then be subject to local government planning approvals and controls which governed the operation of other businesses.

“This will mean that for the first time, local councils and the WA Planning Commission can control where brothels are located and ensure they are not operating in inappropriate areas,” Mr McGinty said.

The working group recommended that new prostitution legislation also include:

- minimum health and safety requirements for sex workers;
- creating a new offence for sex workers and clients who engage in sexual activities while infected with a sexually transmissible infection or blood-borne virus;
- provisions to protect children from being involved in prostitution and from being exploited in relation to prostitution;
- requiring brothel and escort agency operators to employ sex workers under contracts of service; and
- giving police the power to enter brothels to ensure that all operators are certified.

Under current laws, prostitution in itself is not prohibited but it is illegal to manage a brothel and live off the earnings of prostitution.

Streetwalking and kerb crawling are also offences and will remain illegal under the new laws. “The current prostitution laws are a mess and we have brothels operating the length and breadth of the State without any proper checks or balances,” Mr McGinty said.

“The Police Royal Commission report of 2004 found that the lack of clear prostitution legislation also created a high risk for police corruption and although there was no specific evidence of wrongdoing, we need to remove that temptation.”

The working group recommended that existing brothels be automatically certified unless they were not well-managed or were causing problems in the neighbourhood. The Attorney General said the working group’s recommendations would enable the State Government to develop laws that would be acceptable to the Parliament after the Prostitution Control Bill 2003 failed to receive majority support in the Legislative Council.

The working group, which was established in September 2006, consulted with numerous stakeholders including representatives from the sex industry, local government, public health groups, churches and legal bodies. The working group comprised Parliamentary Secretary to the Health Minister, Sue Ellery; Labor MLA John Hyde; Greens MLC Giz Watson; Health Department sexual health program director Lisa Bastion; Detective Superintendent Kim Porter from Western Australia Police; and Caroline Wright from the Office of the Attorney General.

Media Release: New laws to put on the red light - McGinty
ABC - LGA praises McGinty's proposed prostitution laws
The Australian: State to decriminalise brothels

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